If I had to pick, I’d say my mother’s fourth husband was my favorite. Daddy Warbucks was the first adult who seemed to like me as much as he liked my mom AND he had a real job. His income afforded us such luxuries as Disneyland and for the first time ever, a house, with a yard, in an actual neighborhood.
I was in 5th grade and due to said job, I was also ‘blessed’ to attend private Christian school. Faith Christian Academy’s standard curriculum left a lot to be desired in the way of logic and science, but I was still able to walk away with two valuable life skills. How to remain tactful in the face of idiots and the fine art of subtle shade have enabled me to survive corporate America for years.
My teacher was a cross between that weird girl from The Village and Scarlett O’Hara. She could level a room with an eye roll, but with her long denim skirt and Eight Is Enough hair, she was in no danger of turning Ms. into Mrs.
At the end of the school year, an assembly was held and each student received a plaque engraved with a biblical word. This word, chosen by the teacher, was the embodiment of their character and worthiness before the Lord.
While waiting my turn, I quietly judged Ms. First and her obviously limited vocabulary. Kind? Generous? Reverent? Really? That’s all you’ve got? Have you watched these assholes during recess? Go play four square with Steve and then talk to me about how ‘kind’ he is.
I slowly stood from the pew. So much for her limited vocabulary.
“Come up and get your plaque.”
Why not go with Heathen or Sinner? Everyone knows what you meant.
“Yes. Turn around and smile so he can take your picture.”
It wasn’t the first time I had been shamed by a teacher. Long before the assembly, I had arrived home with a note pinned to my jacket. In it, Mrs. Hook explained I would not be participating in recess for the rest of the month as punishment for an inappropriate playground conversation.
A classmate’s mother had given birth and the arrival, via stork, had been announced in class. My hand shot up from the back of the classroom.
“What’s a stork?”
“It’s a bird. It’s the big bird who delivers babies to mommies and daddies.”
“Big Bird delivers babies?”
“No. It’s just a regular bird, not Big Bird.”
“Look, the bird carries the baby from the sky and gives it to the parents. You’ve never heard of the stork?”
“That’s not real.”
In addition to clinically insane, my mother was also a deeply religious, some might say, fanatical Christian. Her belief that even the most innocuous white lie was an abomination before God, led her to tell the truth about everything, and I mean everything. By the ripe old age of four, no scrotum or uterus were left unturned.
My six year old brain just couldn’t comprehend how a teacher could be so wrong and yet still maintain nap time authority. After careful thought and deliberation, I was compelled to educate my peers. I began by setting everyone straight on the issue of baby making. Then, I moved on to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. They learned about nipples and buttholes and even a high level overview of what to expect when Aunt Flow comes to town. By the time the final bell rang, kids were crying, parents were raging, and I was heading home, proud of the days accomplishments yet wondering why the adults were being so mean.
For three weeks I sat at my desk during recess. For three weeks I asked my teacher why adults lie to children. At the end of three weeks, I switched schools.
Teachers didn’t like me. Most adults didn’t like me. I asked too many questions. I still do. I was labeled ‘defiant’ and ‘rebellious’ and was generally regarded as kind of an asshole. I still am. I have been fired twice, alienated potential boyfriends, intimidated potential friends, and probably made more than just my classmates cry. My mouth is, without a doubt, my greatest weakness.
BUT, I also use my mouth to fight; for people, for myself, and for the truth regardless of convenience. It is used to encourage friends and to smile at strangers and my words are used to speak for those who cannot. I am bossy and idealistic and while I would never advocate ruining the magic of Christmas, I would suggest that we need more little girls with great big mouths; bold girls who will not be crushed by words. Girls who refuse to be labeled by small-minded adults and who will stand up, not still.